Body art has nothing if not purpose. Just ask the person wearing it. People get tattoos to commemorate special events in their lives, like new babies or new college degrees. They get them to show their love for another person, location, or even pet. Some get inked to express their grief over the passing of someone they love. Tattoos tell stories about the people wearing them. They scream out hopes, dreams and sometimes even nightmares, but they have a much more mundane, yet practical purpose as well: animal identification.
There’s always been a need for farmers and ranchers to be able to identify their livestock. Starting in the 1800s, they used a hot iron to burn an identifying mark into the animal’s hide. That practice has since been called into question by animal rights activists who are concerned about it being painful and therefore inhumane. While branding is by no means completely extinct, new practices have been successfully in place for several years; one of them is tattooing. Tattooing is fairly quick and surely less painful than branding. Yet it’s still just as permanent
The importance of being able to positively identify an animal goes way beyond ownership. It can go a long way toward the eradication of diseases if the sick animals can be picked out and kept away from the rest of the heard. If it’s easy to tell which animals are sick then they can be studied with confidence, knowing they’ve got the right creature and can more correctly diagnose and treat the illness. Dealing quick and efficiently with the problem means saving money and livestock.
Organ and tissue samples can also be identifies for study and lead to better treatment and prevention of sickness.
Being able to easily tell one animal from the other make it easy to keep accurate records of their vaccinations, checkups and other health information so that the health of the heard can be certified, which is of utmost importance when it comes to selling of f the animals at auction. If there is an outbreak, like the Mad Cow epidemic of a few years back, for example, know not only which creatures are sick, but being able to track where they’ve been and chart their movement could allow veterinarians to find out the source of the disease and maybe stop it.
In recent years, some vets have began imprinting small, blue tattoos on female pets after the animal has been spayed. The mark is usually placed on the abdomen, in a spot where the animal’s hair is the thinnest, so it can be seen through the fur. The idea behind the practice is to protect the animal from having to endure an invasive procedure should it become separated from it’s owners and someone else take it in to get fixed.
Tattoos are also an effective way to permanently identify mice and rats used in lab research. The tattoos are generally applied to the tails of the animals of course, since it is a hairless area and easy for the tattooer to access. The permanence of the marking means the animal will only have to be labeled once, which means less work on the researcher, and less stress on the rat. Tattooing animals involved in research is actually a pretty big business, with several manufacturers producing the products and training people how to use them.
Tattooing animals is for their own protection as well as that of people. It saves money and often the lives of the creatures. Tattoos can help track sickness and disease and aid in their eradication. The practice that many have deemed barbaric has actually proven to be more human to the animals, improving their health and quality of life in the long run.